Once upon a Time in the West

junius

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A new book on the Corrib Gas project exposes a litany of failures on the part of the State, writes James Laffey, Western People Newspaper.

'Once Upon A Time In The West' Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondence of the Irish Times.

‘LIGHT touch’ regulation is to blame for all our current woes. Or so we are told. Each day politicians from all sides of the Dáil divide queue up on the plinth at Leinster House to assure us that it’s the ‘wild west’-style practices of the country’s bankers and regulators that have brought us to this sorry pass.

“We trusted the bankers, we trusted the regulator!” they plaintively lament, the import of their message being that firm and decisive action would have been taken if only someone had told them what was going on. Methinks differently. And here’s why.

Kevin Moore of An Bord Pleanála was a regulator par excellence. In 2001 he was asked to assess the merits of locating the State’s largest infrastructural project – the Corrib gas terminal – on an unstable bog in a remote, isolated area serviced only by 12-feet wide boreens.

Moore took his responsibilities seriously. He appointed an expert hydrogeologist to assist in his deliberations; convened two lengthy oral hearings and trawled through thousands of documents over a two-year period. His 377page report was exhaustive in its detailed analysis of Shell’s plan to construct a gas terminal and onshore pipeline at Bellanaboy in North Mayo, a project that was being fiercely opposed by locals, most of whom were reasonable, sane and ordinary people with no history of popular protest.

Moore’s report was damning in its assessment of Shell’s ham-fisted plans. Instead of hiding behind the usual bland, cautious pronouncements of public servants, the planning inspector baldly concluded that the Corrib terminal was being built on the wrong site. He didn’t use the phrase “wrong site” once in his summation, nor did he use it twice; he used it all of FOUR times. His message to those in power could not have been more explicit: allow this project to go ahead at your peril.

Moore’s report, published in May 2003, should have prompted an emergency meeting of the Cabinet. Troubling questions had been raised about a national project that was to be the most important of its kind in the 21st century. If this servant of the State was raising such grave concerns, surely it was time for the Government of the day to get a firm grip of the Corrib gas project?

The planning inspector, like any good regulator, had also highlighted a worrying trend in the lackadaisical response of other State bodies to the Corrib proposal, including the National Authority for Occupational Health and Safety, several Government departments and Coillte, the semiState forestry company.

Moore’s damning report prompted political action, but not the kind one would have expected. The then Minister for Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern, said he “regretted” the decision of An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for the terminal, while his party colleague and junior minister Frank Fahey – the genius behind the terminal in the bog – asked his fellow TDs from the West of Ireland to meet with no less a personage than the managing director of Shell E&P Ireland, Andy Pyle.

So much for the regulator getting a fair hearing! Kevin Moore might as well have stood on the Erris shoreline and shouted into the broad Atlantic. His warnings went unheeded, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Twelve months after a landmark report from a courageous and conscientous public servant, An Bord Pleanála gave the project the go-ahead.

Within two years, several of the residents who had outlined their fears to him at the oral hearings were languishing in prison – at the behest of no less a personage than Andy Pyle, emboldened no doubt by the sympathetic ear he received from Bertie Ahern at a private meeting four months after the publication of Moore’s report.

Within three years, there were more police and security personnel in North Mayo than in any part of inner city Dublin. And today, the project is still several years from completion, with gas unlikely to flow before 2010, the tenth anniversary of the inspector’s report.

The Corrib gas project is a lesson in everything that is wrong in the Irish State, and it is a lesson well told by Lorna Siggins in her newly published book, Once Upon A Time In The West.

Ms Siggins, the Galway-based western correspondent for the Irish Times, is widely recognised as the foremost journalistic authority on Corrib. As Fintan O’Toole astutely notes in the foreword to the book, Lorna Siggins has always treated the reportage of Corrib as being in the public interest – even when the public were not especially interested.

Corrib has been a hard sell in media terms because, let’s face it, gas pipelines aren’t very sexy. People don’t want to read about manifolds and boreholes and slug catchers.

Consequently, the reportage of the long-running Corrib project has tended to focus on the more sensational elements of the story – the jailing of the Rossport Five, the clashes between protestors and gardaí and the involvement of subversive elements on both sides. But Lorna Siggins has always looked beyond the sensational headlines, probing to the rotten core of a story that exposes the wretched flaws in modern Irish society.

Her devastating book – coming as it does in the wake of the collapse of our entire economy through inept Governance – is akin to the chorus at the end of a Shakespearean tragedy. The whole sorry truth of our imperfect little ‘democracy’ is laid bare before our eyes.

Having endured ten years of the Corrib gas project, Ms Siggins could easily be forgiven for launching into a diatribe against the main protagonists. Instead her analysis is measured, her writing succinct and her story founded entirely on facts: cold, hard, undeniable facts.

Indeed, it is one of the great achievements of Once Upon A Time In The West that its author manages to weave her way through the spin and counterspin of the Corrib gas saga to emerge on the other side with a book that is an honest and fair assessment of one of the most distressing sagas in modern Irish history.

The true value of Once Upon A Time In The West will only be seen in years to come when future historians sift through the wreckage of our ruined republic. They will wonder, for example, how an Irish Government could surrender its natural resources to private enterprise, particularly when the deal was brokered by a corrupt former minister, Ray Burke, in a private meeting with oil and gas bosses. They will wonder, too, how millions of euro could be spent on paying gardaí to provide private security for a multinational whose annual profits regularly top €15 billion. And, most of all, they will wonder how a democratic State could desert its own citizens – decent, law-abiding people who never had any truck with trouble – at their gravest hour of need.

Lorna Siggins’ book makes for uncomfortable reading because for the very first time we have an analysis of the Corrib gas project that goes right to the heart of the matter. Forget about early morning baton charges; forget about maverick protesters hurling abuse at gardaí; forget about boats being sunk on the high seas. Such incidents may make for explosive headlines in the tabloid press but they don’t explain the real story behind the Corrib project.

Through a forensic analysis of the facts, Lorna Siggins clearly demonstrates the process whereby a group of local residents, who set out to protect their health and environment, were initially ignored, then ridiculed, then isolated and finally criminalised. It is a story that should frighten every citizen of this State because it proves beyond any doubt that to raise a voice in protest in Ireland can be as detrimental to a person’s health and safety as a gas terminal built on an unstable bog in a picturesque village.

The financial regulator Patrick Neary kept his mouth shut and clambered from the wreckage of the Irish economy with a golden handshake of €600,000.

Kevin Moore, on the other hand, railed against the inadequacies of the Irish regulatory system and was rewarded with a pointed message from Shell Inc, delivered to the offices of An Bord Pleanála five years after his damning report on Corrib. The good people in Shell had ‘requested’ that Mr Moore be excluded from the assessment of a new planning application for amendments to its gas terminal at Bellanaboy.

There were a few desultory protests from An Bord Pleanála but Shell ultimately got its way. Who needs ‘light touch’ regulation when you’ve got a multi-billion euro corporation to do the real regulation for you?

The Celtic Tiger banking bubble was founded on the spurious and utterly preposterous notion that economic collapses don’t happen in Ireland. Bertie Ahern freely admitted in a recent television documentary that the bankers told him “everything would be fine” and he took them at their word.

And that is precisely the issue that has been at the heart of Corrib for the past decade. Gas pipelines shouldn’t explode in the same way that banks shouldn’t implode. But just because these things haven’t happened in the past doesn’t mean they won’t happen in the future. Which is precisely why normal, responsible democracies have regulatory systems that protect citizens rather than citadels.

Lorna Siggins has produced a landmark book that exposes the appalling lack of regulation in Ireland. She has done the State some service and one hopes that those in power will learn from the failures of governance and regulation highlighted in this book.

Any Irish person who cares about their country and its future should read Once Upon A Time In The West. And by the time you have turned the last page you really will want to lock Bertie Ahern in a cupboard…beside a gas pipeline, of course.

Once Upon A Time In The West, published by Transworld Ireland, is available in all local bookshops. Lorna Siggins will speak at the John Healy Festival in Charlestown next weekend.

Western People: How the State deserted its people and resources
 


Tomas Mor

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Laffey is just at his old tricks agin. He was always against the project ever since he went to the home of one of the Rossport 5 , took tea and buns in it and famously childishly wrote "I do not know whether Gerry Adams made the scones". Inspectors' recommendations are quite often overruled by ABP. Its ironic that we have politicians like Senator Sullivan and Martin Ferris calling for gas project in Kerry to go ahead, but the latter came to Mayo protesting. If Mr. Laffey travels to Belmullet and Erris he will see it is a place not devasted by recession and it's future well being is well assured. When people of Rossport and Belmullet got a chance to vote in last GE they showed their preferences ! And in Rossport 32 out of 36 household only a few weeks ago voted to accept a big grant from Shell to upgrade rural water supply, according to local papers. What does that say messrs Laffey and Siggins ?
 

junius

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Laffey is just at his old tricks agin. He was always against the project ever since he went to the home of one of the Rossport 5 , took tea and buns in it and famously childishly wrote "I do not know whether Gerry Adams made the scones". Inspectors' recommendations are quite often overruled by ABP. Its ironic that we have politicians like Senator Sullivan and Martin Ferris calling for gas project in Kerry to go ahead, but the latter came to Mayo protesting. If Mr. Laffey travels to Belmullet and Erris he will see it is a place not devasted by recession and it's future well being is well assured. When people of Rossport and Belmullet got a chance to vote in last GE they showed their preferences ! And in Rossport 32 out of 36 household only a few weeks ago voted to accept a big grant from Shell to upgrade rural water supply, according to local papers. What does that say messrs Laffey and Siggins ?
You're very gullible Tomas Mor if you believe what you read in the media! And I'm afraid that there are a great deal more than 36 houses on the Rossport water scheme. Wonder where they took that vote from?
 

Superindigoman

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Doubt there will be many responses here, this subject is something the Irish people don't want to discuss, it is by miles the biggest scandal in the history of this State, but for some strange reason no one wants to talk about, why?
In any other Country there would of been uproar, the government would have collapsed and the people responsible would now be doing a long stretch in prison, in Ireland no one talks about it, not even other political parties, why?
You may ask whats so bad about this, they find (todays estimate), €500 billion of oil and gas in Irish territorial waters belonging to this country and its people, our so called government gave it all away for nothing. Not just that, since it was found we have and still are loosing money, so far €12 million and counting.
Find oil and gas in Ireland, you loose money, would have been much better if it had never been found, simple, thick Irish, does make you think....
 
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Wait lets get Statoil in as lovingly requested by idiots on here this week.....

Oh wait they already are there and have been as part of project for years.
 
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SeamusNapoleon

The whole topic of the Corrib/Shell to Sea controversy is probably the most loaded and divisive I've come across in recent times.

I've not seen a middle ground yet in reports. For every report on locals opposed to it, you get mention of those in favour of it. Some of whom write into national papers claiming they're being misrepresented - which, of course, means you can, if so inclined, bring up the whole what-agenda-do-these-papers-have thing.

Given the history of Shell, I would be inclined to see them in not so sympathetic a light. I know some people then who would be variously described as 'activists' for various things or would hold 'left-wing' views. And several of these people would occasionally complain about the protests going on down there. Perhaps exposing their own ignorance on the subject.

But, yes, I know this isn't a left-wing issue; it's a community issue, and one in which they feel themselves in danger - not to mention the issue in national economic contexts.

If anyone can provide me with an idiot's guide to the controversy, I would much appreciate it. Before me spending money I don't have right now on a book which I have read fair favourable reviews for, in fairness.
 

junius

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Thank you Superindigoman. You are quite right. It is the biggest scandal in the history of the State but the media, corrupted by the scandalous greed ridden fraud that was the so-called Celtic Tiger, has managed to infiltrate the minds of most Irish people and so they continue to turn their backs on the unfortunate victims of the incompetent corporate government that continues to pretend to rule Ireland. Now that the Celtic Tiger has collapsed they're still managing to ignore the Corrib Gas debacle. Are most Irish people really that dense, thick and stupid that they are unable to see the corruption that has dogged this proposed project - that's what it still is - a proposed project? A proposed project without planning permission, a proposed project without a route, a proposed project without the consent of local landowners over who it intends to steamroll.

Every Irish person should be made to read Lorna Siggins's book - 'Once Upon a Time in the West' so that they are enabled to come to a rational, knowledgeable and educated conclusion instead of the ignorant, greed-driven and utterly selfish attitude that so many take in relation to the Corrib Gas Project. NIMBY's personified - it's not in my back yard so why the hell should I care? If consecutive Irish Governments get away with this corrupt and inappropriate path, I can only tell others who may well find themselves the next ones under attack from the corrupt forces of corrupt Government that it's not a good place to be. Think you're immune - dream on!

Get the book, read it carefully, all the corrupt, backhand, dealings and bribery that have taken place far from the victimised area, are not that easily digested on a quick read. Nobody should comment until they know the facts. This book will give you the facts. This book is not the junk product of liars like Paul Williams and the evidence contained within its pages backs up almost every thread on this forum.

Trust this Government? Not good enough to stay ignorant. You NEED to read this book! About €15.99 from all major booksellers in Ireland and the UK.
 

junius

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The whole topic of the Corrib/Shell to Sea controversy is probably the most loaded and divisive I've come across in recent times.

I've not seen a middle ground yet in reports. For every report on locals opposed to it, you get mention of those in favour of it. Some of whom write into national papers claiming they're being misrepresented - which, of course, means you can, if so inclined, bring up the whole what-agenda-do-these-papers-have thing.

Given the history of Shell, I would be inclined to see them in not so sympathetic a light. I know some people then who would be variously described as 'activists' for various things or would hold 'left-wing' views. And several of these people would occasionally complain about the protests going on down there. Perhaps exposing their own ignorance on the subject.

But, yes, I know this isn't a left-wing issue; it's a community issue, and one in which they feel themselves in danger - not to mention the issue in national economic contexts.

If anyone can provide me with an idiot's guide to the controversy, I would much appreciate it. Before me spending money I don't have right now on a book which I have read fair favourable reviews for, in fairness.
Presumably you refer to a certain B C? Heard this half wit try to speak recently - unable to string two words together coherently! If it wasn't so serious you'd have to laugh. Ha ha ha! Obviously, he has a (Shell) scriptwriter and he's just the paid 'mouthpiece'. Here's a few euro for you B - buy yourself another bottle to calm your nerves! Don't worry about repercussions - sure you don't live within 75 kms of the area you pretend to be a resident of!!

Libraries all over the country will lend it to you for FREE!
 
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S

SeamusNapoleon

Presumably you refer to a certain Brendan Cafferty? Heard this half wit try to speak recently - unable to string two words together coherently! If it wasn't so serious you'd have to laugh. Ha ha ha! Obviously, he has a (Shell) scriptwriter and he's just the paid 'mouthpiece'. Here's a few euro for you Brendan - buy yourself another bottle to calm your nerves! Don't worry about repercussions - sure you don't live within 75 kms of the area you pretend to be a resident of!!

Libraries all over the country will lend it to you for FREE!
I'll get it in the library then, a chara :)

Just did a bit of cursory reading there from what I could find on Google.
I am a wee bit ashamed of my ignorance on this.

I know a fella who was a member of the Burren Action Group.
Not the exact same circumstances, I know, but the state reaction is almost a mirror-image. Disgusting.
 

Tomas Mor

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I bet the number of protesters and tree huggers will fall as soon as welfare cuts are announced in the budget !
 

junius

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A little hyperbolic
It depends on WHERE you live of course, doesn't it? To NIMBY's its hyperbole - to the local people and those who care about why certain places, particularly this entire bay, have been 'EU protected' as SAC's, NHA's and SPA's, its a nightmarish understatement of reality!
 

culmore

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Once upon a time there was fu-k all in the west of Ireland , now we have a bit of progress and the blow-ins want to destroy it and keep us in the dark ages
 

junius

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Once upon a time there was fu-k all in the west of Ireland , now we have a bit of progress and the blow-ins want to destroy it and keep us in the dark ages
Oh please Culmore - please write to Minister Gormley re. planning permission currently open to submission till 23rd November 2010 and beg, on hands and knees, please beg him to put the pipeline through your garden. Please!!
 

Luigi Vampa

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Once upon a time there was fu-k all in the west of Ireland , now we have a bit of progress and the blow-ins want to destroy it and keep us in the dark ages
How's does it feel to be Shell's slaves ? Just like FF, they bought you all for penuts and GAA jerseys.
 

dpbdpb

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It depends on WHERE you live of course, doesn't it? To NIMBY's its hyperbole - to the local people and those who care about why certain places, particularly this entire bay, have been 'EU protected' as SAC's, NHA's and SPA's, its a nightmarish understatement of reality!
Have you actually see the site where its located (im not talking about the routes of the pipeline as these still have to be finalised) - i have toured around the area and think that its a very suitable location for the project - no houses located close to it and its also in the middle of a forest so cant be really seen from outside of the site.
 
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Have you actually see the site where its located (im not talking about the routes of the pipeline as these still have to be finalised) - i have toured around the area and think that its a very suitable location for the project - no houses located close to it and its also in the middle of a forest so cant be really seen from outside of the site.
What do you know FFS !!!!

You are using reason and logic when people seek to rant.

Cop on and agree other wise you are tied to Western Capitalism
 

ergo2

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dpbdpb, the anti-Shell people are not interested in the facts you state.

As a resident of Mayo for many years I do hope this project succeeds.
 

junius

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Have you actually see the site where its located (im not talking about the routes of the pipeline as these still have to be finalised) - i have toured around the area and think that its a very suitable location for the project - no houses located close to it and its also in the middle of a forest so cant be really seen from outside of the site.
Gosh, are you sure you were in the right place? I don't wish to argue with anybody particularly, even Odie below but, well, it (and we're talking here the refinery) isn't in a forest far from houses. It might have been Coillte owned land once with a few straggly conifers planted there, but the site can be seen from far and wide and lights up the night sky with its glare. Although I am a few kms from the refinery site there are many houses in very close proximity to it. Many families live in Bellanaboy td and Muiningaun td and in Glenamoy close by. Shell's own picture of its refinery - where's the little hidden refinery in the middle of a forest?

The problem is that the refinery is not on the coastline - its ten kilometres inland from it - and the bay between it and the coastline, is EU dedicated SAC, NHA and SPA, is extremely beautiful, regularly inhabited by very large pods of dolphins and totally unsuited to a raw high pressure unodourised gas pipeline because it has no solid rock substrate the length of it. Shell say they can build their tunnel in silt! The land between the coastline and the refinery is all privately owned and is mainly divided in small strips which run from the mountains down to the sea, most little wider than a couple of hundred metres, and does not belong to the Irish Government who think they can just take it from those who own it for their own whims!

The coastline, along which the pipeline is proposed to run is in the relatively densely populated td of Glengad and the pipeline does not come into the coast perpendicularly, it runs parallel with the coastline and in close proximity to all those homes, the exact location of the largest landslide ever in Ireland in 2003 where 40 separate landslides occurred on one night in September of that year.
http://www.gsi.ie/nr/rdonlyres/d7e643b5-624e-4cf3-86e1-68be0d1a36c7/0/gsi_pollatomish_landslide_report.pdf

Oh, I could go on and I could post thousands of photos but I'm too tired now.......



Watch this documentary:-
[ame="http://www.vimeo.com/8668733"]http://www.vimeo.com/8668733[/ame]
 
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Luigi Vampa

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dpbdpb, the anti-Shell people are not interested in the facts you state.

As a resident of Mayo for many years I do hope this project succeeds.
How many permanent shell jobs will it create in Mayo ?

How much does the Irish taxpayer get paid per litre of gas ?
 


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